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  • Writer's pictureThe Old Farmyard Forceleap Farm

South Africa for Christmas!

Our trip in South Africa is the “holiday” after 3 months in Ghana and before we head to Zambia. We flew from Tamale to Accra, during which the boys managed to leave BOTH the kindles on the plane!! Arrrr! Then it was Accra to Joburg and then Joburg to Cape town, so a good 24 hours of travel and, by the time we arrived, we were hanging! This resulted in the biggest meltdown in history in the Avis office as I tried to pick up the hire car. Probably feeling a bit out of control and exhausted, Toby was on a mission to control everything from the trolley to the paperwork, from his brother to navigation. Needless to say, it ended badly, with me totally losing it and expelling him from the office in disgrace. When I went to get him, he was sitting with the armed guard, and I momentarily wondered if he was under armed guard or under armed protection from me! Probably a good thing the guard had the gun and not me!

Anyway, into the hire car and the boys were asleep before we even left the airport carpark. We arrived at an extremely nice hotel in Cape Town which had the feel of a comfortable private house in a quiet suburb. We were spending a couple of days there, and it felt like decompression after our time in Ghana. We were living it up in the lap of luxury! The boys loved eating butter, and yogurt again, as well as having no spicy food, endless Wi-Fi, TV and a very comfortable bed with a duvet. We went down to Victoria Waterfront for a wander around and were slightly dazzled by the vibrance and just range of food and shops, we felt a bit like hill billies! T

he next day we had a great day driving along the stunning coast to Cape Point, where we did a bit of hiking around the point, which is just so beautiful. On the way back we dropped in at Boulder beach to see the African Penguins and for the kids to make sandcastles. We then fulfilled a major ambition of the boys by going to “Scratch Patch” the gem and crystal place I had visited with Mikey when I took him to South Africa a few years ago. You just sit in beds full of gems and crystals and collect a small cup’s worth to take home! The boys simply loved it, pouring over the endless supply to find the nicest red one, the longest blue one, the one they could make into a necklace etc. I sat in the café drinking coke and reading my book!

Unfortunately, we could not go up Table Mountain, as it was just too windy for most of the time there and then there was a bush fire that stopped the cable car for the rest of our stay, so I decided that Table Mountain would have to wait until we were next in town! A couple of days later we headed out along the N2 road that goes past the airport and industrial areas, as well as several shanty towns. Some of these had rows of neatly built, identical tiny matchbox houses, but others were a maze of shelters made from tin, old bits of wood and tarpaulin! I asked the boys what they thought about South Africa in comparison to Ghana. Mikey said, “There are not many black people in South Africa, and even the black people are not really black like in Ghana!” Toby said, “There are just much more cars than motorbikes in South Africa, where as Ghana has more motorbikes and less cars.” But they both noticed that the people in the shanties were all black and they also commented that they did not think the black people looked very happy. This interested me as, during this trip, we also met quite a few white South Africans, and they did not seem to be particularly happy either! Most were planning their way out, despite constantly telling me that South Africa was the best, with beautiful weather, great beaches, fantastic outdoor lifestyle etc. Some named security as their reason to go, others the lack of opportunity for their kids to get into university or to get a job, but many seemed to me to simply feel rejected by modern South Africa and so are voting with their feet. So much for the Rainbow Nation, not sure that aspiration is quite going according to plan!!

We headed over the mountains that surround Cape Town and into, what I would call, a big landscape. We were heading to Oudtshoorn, which is the epi centre of the Ostrich farming community in South Africa. We stayed in a lovely farm guest house. They had Ostriches and grew Lucerne hay for dairy farmers in the area. They had an open farm where you could do ostrich farm tours and they had a nice café and shop. The boys really enjoyed feeding the ostriches as well as holding an ostrich chick and even standing on their eggs!

The next day we carried on to Plattenburg Bay on the coast, where we had a couple of days to catch up on various attractions for the boys. We did Monkey land, Birds of Eden, Knysna elephant sanctuary and a zoo/sanctuary called Cango. Between them all, we saw many of Africa’s animals close up and personal, but I had to explain that the next step was to see these same animals in the wild.

After this first week of holiday, we flew back to Joburg for the big reunion with Dad, my sister Eleanor, and her kids, who gamely came over to spend Christmas with us. My boys were thoroughly over excited by the prospect of seeing them, and sat patiently at the barrier for them to arrive, in fact they ended up inside the barrier staring through the window but security left them to it. I must admit I was also excited, although somewhat sceptical at the prospect of 3 different flights all arriving on time so we could meet. But amazingly everything went like clockwork, and everyone turned up and we headed North-West to go on safari. It was a long drive, but we arrived in Madikwe National Park on the Botswana border, to be greeted by two lions sleeping by the side of the road between the park gate and our lodge! The lodge was very agreeable, and I particularly liked the elephant hide below our chalets, where you could sit and watch anything that visited the waterhole close up.

We had the extremely early starts for the morning game drives and then relaxation through the day before the evening one. We saw a lot of game, from Elephants (my favourite) to Rhinos, giraffes to Lions. We had a fleeting glimpse of a leopard in the dark, which was exciting, as well as seeing Cheetah and even Wild dogs. But we also saw lots of smaller stuff from snakes to tortoise, chameleons to owls. It is hard to describe the thrill of a safari, but the hairs go up on the back of your head when a herd of elephants with their babies march purposefully straight towards you, and surround your vehicle, before silently gliding off into the sunset kicking up a bit of dust as they go. We saw a wildebeest give birth to a calf and two male impalas have a full-on fist fight. But my favourite moment was seeing a lioness with her cub, who seemed to be complaining bitterly about life, man I know how that lioness feels! I do find these moments magical and such a very precious experience. You don’t need to do safari for weeks on end, in fact the five nights we had there was perfect. But it is magical to see wild animals behave like wild animals, free to roam and do their thing in space.

After that we headed off on another long car journey to Ants Nest, which is a ranch more directly North of Joburg in the Waterberg. This is not a farm but more a game ranch, with mainly grazing animals such as antelope, zebras, rhino, and wildebeest, but most fascinatingly there is also a free roaming herd of horses, who are used for riding safaris. Fifty horses literally have the run of the place mixing with the game and returning to the stables twice a day to have ticks removed and to be fed and looked after. It is wild! We went for a couple of evening rides to have sundowners. After a couple of hours in the saddle you arrive at a vehicle where chairs have been arranged with drinks and snacks on hand. You dismount, take off the tack, and just let the horse wander off! They start grazing nearby as you relax into your chair with your drink to watch the sun go down.

Gradually the horses melt into the bush to make their way back to the stables by dawn, and you are left to watch the Rhino graze in the distance or some Zebras trot past. Once you are ready, you jump into the vehicle and are driven back to the ranch for dinner. Throughout the day you see horses wander past the house, sometimes with a rider, and sometimes without. We went swimming, did archery and generally had a lovely time together. Our stay culminated with Christmas day, which we shared with Ant and his staff. We joined a very enthusiastic and diverse congregation at church, and then back to the ranch for a huge lunch. Unfortunately, (or fortunately as there has been little rain this rainy season) there was an enormous thunderstorm just before lunch! This resulted in a certain amount of running around with umbrellas and tarpaulins and most of the staff were dripping wet by the time they had relocated the lunch from the garden to under cover! It was a shame, as a great deal of effort had gone in to making it magical, but it was delicious anyway and we all stuffed ourselves.

The next day we drove back to Joburg as it was the end of the holiday. We were off to Zambia, but the rest of the family were returning to a soggy UK.

We checked into our flight and as we sat in the departure lounge, I asked the boys what they thought about South Africa. Toby said, “I don’t want to be mean to Ghana or anything, but everything in South Africa is better than Ghana…but I like Ghana more.” So, make of that what you will!! Next stop Zambia!

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